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Museums Alaska-Visiting the Alaska State Museum
Story & Photo by Raktenga Elaine Kingeekuk
It was great to visit the Alaska State Museum in Juneau this June and July. While there, I was able to visit the exhibition Visceral: Verity, Legacy, Identity. Alaska Native Gut Knowledge and Perseverance. I was also able to visit with collections in the museum. Ellen, the conservator, knew I wanted to look at stitches and she made sure I did. It was great that I asked for an extra 4 days and stayed with her because two days wouldn’t have been enough.
I’m glad I’m doing this kind of work with museums because I want to teach the skills that the Elders wanted to be passed down. It’s good to see that there are collections that have more stitches that we don’t remember, and items that were collected from other regions, too. That way all that we don’t have here anymore, are in the museums that we can look back and know about.
It’s good to see a glimpse of the stuff in the museum. In a way, I’m sad. In other ways, I’m happy. I’m grateful there’s a museum to preserve our history and culture, but there’s a gap between people who know things, and people who don’t. Looking back, oh my goodness, I’m so glad about what I’ve learned. I appreciate myself. I’m so honored how much they, the elders gave me, and how much I learned from them that I want to pass down. It was their dream—the elders told the students, “What you learn, you pass on.”
From going to the Alaska State Museum, and looking at things there, I’m appreciative—I’m proud that I stayed to teach Yu’pik at my local junior high, and as I learned about traditional games, songs, history and clothing from working with the elders, it made me think about our traditional islanders when they had their own school and own way of teaching. I learned things that I wouldn’t have known if I had gone to college. It was like going to my own school. Our professors were our elders. I’m proud of what I’ve learned and achieved, and I want to record myself and teach someone else to continue what I dreamed to do. I’m also learning to credit myself because I need to honor the people that taught me.
Through this initiative, Museums Alaska and The CIRI Foundation are fostering cultural sovereignty and preserving Alaska Native heritage for generations to come. Don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of this remarkable endeavor when the program cycle opens in August 2023. Together, we can celebrate and honor the richness of Alaska Native cultures and promote a deeper understanding of our shared history.